Lacombe scrapping census due to lack of participation

The City of Lacombe is scrapping the results of a census that came up more than 2,000 people short.

The City of Lacombe is scrapping the results of a census that came up more than 2,000 people short.

Enumerators went door to door between April 12 and June 30 to get an updated population count.

Some residences were visited three times or more to get information and door hangers were left with census contact information.

When that didn’t work, enumerators tried to reach residents by phone.

Despite those efforts, only 11,002 residents were counted — down from the last federal census in 2011 when 11,710 people were listed.

It is estimated that up to 1,200 households — or around 2,400 people — went uncounted.

Mayor Steve Christie said it’s not clear what went wrong.

“We were quite taken aback with the lack of participation this year,” he said, adding previous census counts had gone without a hitch.

“And that’s why we’re trying to get a handle on here — what happened?

“I know a lot of people worked really hard on making that (census) work and we just want to have a little bit of a review of that and make sure our procedures work.”

Despite the unexpected results, the decision to spend $14,000 on a census was a good one, he said.

Lacombe, like many Central Alberta communities, is growing quickly and having an accurate head count means the community can take best advantage of provincial per capita grants.

In this case, Lacombe would face losing grant money if its census results were accepted as accurate by Alberta Municipal Affairs.

To ensure, the city doesn’t take a grant cut, a letter has been sent to the province requesting the federal numbers be used instead.

Before next year’s census, the mayor would like to see a public education campaign reminding residents of the importance of being counted.

A report to council suggests one of the reasons enumerators may have had a tough time was the addition of a number of questions asking residents about rating municipal services, public transit use and affordable housing supply.

“The addition of these questions increased the length of the census interview, which was not well received by enumerators or residents,” says the report.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com